Spatial Humanities Public Lecture: “Map as Method and Medium” by Shannon Mattern
Thursday, March 29, 2018
The prevalence of smartphones, the rise of Google, and the widespread availability of open geographic data have made maps an everyday, everywhere medium. Within the academy, these same developments, compounded with greater access to digitized archival material, have led to the increased use of mapping as a method and mode of representation in a variety of disciplines. As these geospatial tools shape our modes of inquiry – and even help to frame the very questions we ask – it’s important that we recognize maps’ epistemological, ontological, and pedagogical power. Regarding maps as media, I argue, compels us to think more broadly and critically about how they work – to consider their material forms and sensory codes; the protocols that direct their operation; the processes by which they’re created, circulated, and used – and by whom. And thinking about map-making as media-making prompts us to appreciate the wide variety of cartographic practices at our disposal, and to weigh the affordances and limitations of various mapping tools and techniques. In some cases, we might find that not all phenomena lend themselves to “mediation” as points, lines and areas; and that not all things can – or should – be mapped.